The Seal-Engraving Art of Deng Shiru (1743-1805)

Lau, Ho Man 劉浩敏
Supervisor: Prof. Q.L. Wan

Deng Shiru (鄧石如, 1743—1805) was one of the most remarkable and influential calligraphers and seal engravers in the Qing (1644—1911) period, and made a considerable contribution to Chinese art history. However, there have been only few studies of his life and artistic career in any language, especially in western languages.

By introducing several calligraphic elements, such as calligraphic scripts, calligraphic techniques and calligraphic styles into his seal making, Deng Shiru has made great contributions to the development of seal-engraving art. He enriched the appearance of seals by the adoption of different calligraphic scripts and the application of his sophisticated skills and knowledge. He also imported calligraphic styles into his seal-engraving, and started a tradition of stylistic association between these two art forms. As a result of his influence, calligraphy became a very important element during the revival period of seal-engraving. He eventually gained lots of followers, which allowed him to own his seal school, the Deng School (Dengpai 鄧派), and it became extremely influential for the subsequent development.

The study involved a survey of the primary and secondary literature on Deng Shiru’s life and his artistic career, and particularly a stylistic analysis of his seal-engraving techniques. An analysis of the relevant historical sources enables his career to be reconstructed on a sound chronological basis, and allows his work to be seen in its proper context.

Moreover, the study makes an important contribution to a relatively little-studied area of Chinese art history. It corrects a number of misconceptions in previous studies and helps to establish a more reliable history of the seal-engraving art, and also widens our knowledge of Deng Shiru and his art works, especially those of his seal works. It is hoped that it will serve as a platform for other researchers for further studies.